Thursday, May 26, 2011
KUNG FU PANDA 2
I was a big fan of the first one, which really surprised me. I was worried that Jack Black was going to ad-lib too much and feature tons of inappropriate humor, much like the highly overrated SHREK films. But instead, it was an inspiring action packed adventure, with a bit of humor laced throughout. This is one of my most anticipated movies of the summer. I love martial arts, and I was tickled at how the original treated Kung-Fu with respect.
This one picks up where the first one left off. Po (Jack Black) is now the Dragon Warrior who leads the Furious Five. They are successful at cleaning up the streets of Asia, that is until a new threat is introduced. During a clever 2D animated prologue, we learn about the evil Peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), who wants revenge. He also destroyed all of the pandas when a prophecy told him that he would be defeated by a Panda. Lord Shen also has a powerful cannon that threatens to destroy the countryside. Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) tells Po of this and the Five are off on an adventure. But even though Po is the Dragon Warrior, he still has much to learn, like the art of eternal peace. Only then will he be able to defeat Lord Shen.
I loved the prologue, as it really got my blood pumping for the final confrontation. The animation looks fantastic, and the 3D wasn't terrible. The first action scene has some great moments and at times even felt like an old school Jackie Chan movie, as it mixed humor with the martial arts. Maybe I was expecting too much, but I was hoping that the rest of the film was going to be like this. Unfortunately, it's not quite as bad ass as the original.
The strength of the first one was that they treated the action scenes very seriously. In this one, the jokes get first billing. There is at least twice as much humor now, and it kind of gets in the way of the action. Just when I thought there was going to be a real "bad ass" moment, Po does something really silly, like screaming with his hand on fire, which made the kids laugh, but ruined the potentially cool moment. That's not to say I don't enjoy silly humor, but it should fit within the story. RIO had several silly moments, but it fit the story's tone. I didn't think throwing more jokes in this one was the answer to make a successful sequel. My two favorite scenes in the first one was the jailbreak scene, and the confrontation on the bridge between the villain and the Furious Five. I kept waiting for a thrilling scene like one of those again, but I didn't get it.
Jack Black seemed to do alot more ad-libbing this time around. Which worked some of the time, and was annoying the rest of the time. The supporting voice cast got to do a bit more this time too. I was happy that David Cross and Seth Rogen didn't let loose in the original, as they actually seemed to play characters. But here they both have a few chances to make one-liners that seem inappropriate for martial arts masters to make. The one-liners should be only left to Po. That fits his personality. Dustin Hoffman is still my favorite character, though he's in it far less. The biggest surprise was that Gary Oldman was just "okay" as the baddie. He even had a few moments of humor, which didn't quite work. I loved his character animation though.
The film isn't terrible by any means. I was just underwhelmed and disappointed. But that's because the first one was so awesome. If I didn't see the first one, I probably would have liked this much more. There are things that really work: like Po's relationship with his father (James Hong), Po learning about his past, and the cliffhanger ending was a nice touch. I guess my expectations may have been too high. I didn't want a silly KUNG FU PANDA 2, loaded with jokes. I was hoping it would be more like the first one.
The laughs definitely dominate the action this time. Some people might actually prefer that, and I'm sure that the kids are going to love it! In fact, I have to bring my kid to it again this weekend. So who knows, maybe I'll enjoy it more, now that my expectations have been lowered considerably.
**1/2 (out of ****)